After getting a coil (intrauterine contraception)

Your health expert: Dr Sam Wild, Bupa GP and Women’s Health Lead
Content editor review by Rasheda Begum, September 2022
Next review due September 2025

There are two types of intrauterine contraception you can get, including the intrauterine device (IUD) and intrauterine system (IUS). They are often called ‘coils’, although they are mostly T shaped. They sit inside the womb until you have them removed and can stay in place for many years. Coils are very effective in preventing pregnancy.

After insertion of the coil

You may experience some vaginal bleeding after you have the coil fitted and the bleeding may carry on for a few days. It is best that you wait three days after fitting before you use tampons or have sex to reduce the risk of infection. It is safe to resume using tampons with your next period, but change them with care.

You may have no pain, but it is common to have period-like cramps. This may continue for a day or two. Simple pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may help, as well as using a hot-water bottle or heat pad. If you have continuous pain in your lower abdomen or any sudden severe pain, seek medical advice.

When the coil starts working

If you have had a copper coil (IUD) fitted, it will be effective immediately in preventing pregnancy. The copper in the IUD is toxic to eggs and sperm.

If you have had an IUS fitted on the first seven days of your period, you will be protected immediately against pregnancy. If it is fitted at any other time, you will need to use an extra contraceptive method for the first seven days as advised by a doctor. The IUS coil is copper free and releases a set amount of progestogen hormone (levonorgestrel) each day. This thickens the mucus in your womb to stop sperm from getting in.

If you miss a period, or you think you may be pregnant, talk to a doctor. You may need to be seen by a gynaecologist. The coil doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you will need to use a condom.

Checking your coil threads

You’ll have two loose threads that you can feel at the opening of your cervix. The doctor uses these to remove the coil. You’ll need to check that you can feel your coil threads about four-to-six weeks after a coil fit and regularly thereafter. The best time to check your threads is once a month after your period. The most likely time for an IUD to fall out is during a heavy period. When checking your threads, if you notice that:

  • you can’t feel the threads
  • the threads suddenly feel a lot longer
  • you can feel a hard plastic stem

Then, there may be a problem as the coil may no longer be protecting you from pregnancy. You will need to temporarily use alternative contraception such as condoms, and contact the centre you had the coil fitted for advice.

Bleeding pattern

If you have had a copper coil (IUD) fitted, you may notice that your period becomes heavier and lasts longer. This is normal.

If you have an IUS, it is normal to expect irregular bleeding during the first three-to-six months. This is usually spotting and rarely heavy. It usually settles with time to light, infrequent periods or no bleeding at all.

If you are worried about your bleeding, speak to a doctor or nurse for advice.


Signs of infection from an IUS or IUD include:

  • strong lower abdominal (tummy) pain
  • abnormal vaginal discharge (for example discharge that smells or is discoloured)
  • fever, feeling unwell, shivering
  • pain during sex

You should seek medical advice if you have any of these symptoms.

Removal and replacement of your coil

The coil can stay in for between 5 and 10 years, or even longer depending on the type and your age when it’s fitted. You can have the coil removed at any time, but this needs to be done by a trained healthcare professional. You will need to avoid having sex for seven days before having the coil removed or changed, or make sure to use a condom. Sperm can remain active in your body for up to seven days, so there is a risk of pregnancy if a coil is removed within that time.

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This information was published by Bupa's Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals and deemed accurate on the date of review. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition.

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  • Contraception – IUS/IUD. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries., last revised February 2021
  • Intrauterine Contraceptive Device. Patient., last edited May 2019
  • Intrauterine system. Patient., last edited August 2020
  • Contraception. BMJ Best Practice., last updated August 2022
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